Headed out for the evening? Low calorie cocktails are an ideal choice if you want to enjoy a refreshing drink but have healthy, sustainable weight loss in mind. From mojitos to Moscow Mules, we've served up here the best lower sugar alcoholic beverages for some inspiration before you hit the bar that arrive at below 160 calories a glass.
As you'll learn, some classic cocktails are naturally lower in sugar than others, while the ingredients of your go-to beverages can be tweaked to bring the calorie count down - all without compromising on flavor. However, it's important to note that this doesn't mean they are good for you. Any alcohol should be consumed in moderation to protect your health, warding off everything from low mood to conditions like breast cancer.
So, if you want to mix up your lowest calorie alcohol options a little, then we've called on an expert to explain how exactly cocktails can impact on weight loss. You'll also discover what to consider when choosing what to sip on - including the best spirit and mixer choice. Just remember the importance of mindful drinking, and that low-sugar booze should still be enjoyed with care...
Which cocktail has the fewest calories?
Before we dive into the best low calorie cocktails, it's important to get to the bottom of why it matters at all. That's because any kind of drinking - whether a margarita or some chardonnay - can impact on healthy sustainable weight loss. "There are seven calories per gram of alcohol," explains nutritionist Elisa Gomez de Bonilla. "These are considered empty calories, meaning that they do not meet the relevant nutritional needs but are stored in our bodies as fat."
Drinking can sabotage your other efforts to slim down in other ways too. "Alcohol may slow the body's fat burning abilities," warns Gomez de Bonilla, who works for the Oxford Online Pharmacy (opens in new tab). "The liver is responsible for the storage and processing of the fat, carbohydrates and proteins we consume, turning them into energy. Our bodies cannot store alcohol, and so it must be broken down by the liver before everything else - which interrupts and slows down your metabolic rate and reduces the amount of fat that the body burns for energy."
Additionally, while you might know what to snack on when dieting, sipping on booze won't help your efforts to stick to this. "Alcohol can stimulate the part of the brain that makes us hungry, which may explain why people often overeat after drinking," notes Gomez de Bonilla. "It causes blood sugar to drop by interrupting the way the liver breaks down and releases glucose into the bloodstream. As soon as blood sugar dips, we are more likely to find an easy solution to this by eating more.”
There are some seriously refreshing low-calorie non-alcoholic drinks in a can now available. However, that's not to say you can't enjoy a drink (a maximum of one per day is recommended by official US guidelines for women) on occasion - just help yourself achieve your health goal by wising up about your order.
Best low calorie cocktails to order
Sometimes you want to ask for something at the bar that's a bit more special than low-calorie alcoholic drinks in a can - like freshly-made low calorie cocktails, made without sugary spirits and mixers. So, if the occasion invites it, why not try sipping on one of these...
1. Vodka and soda
If you're looking for a low calorie cocktail that tops the rest, then this is it. It's a classic combination that isn't for the faint-hearted (meaning, those who like their drink sweet) and is made of a simple but refreshing mix of vodka and soda water - with an optional slice of lemon or lime to garnish.
Approximate number of calories: 95, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of vodka
A classic mojito isn't usually the best option. While it contains lime juice, mint leaves and soda, it also has generous servings of sugar and rum which brings the total calories to around 240 on average. However, with just a few tweaks you can bring that number down - ask for a shot of rum with lime juice, some mint and Sprite Zero Sugar for fruity sweetness.
Approximate number of calories: 79, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of rum
3. Gin and tonic
A great choice if you're in a bar and are stuck for what to order - but just make sure that you stick to one shot of gin and order diet tonic water to go along with it. Although, if you forget, the calorie count will be 93 for a double, which still brings your drink under a hundred calories.
Approximate number of calories: 64, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of gin
4. Bloody Mary
While it might be best known as a popular accompaniment to Sunday brunch, this drink makes a briliant low calorie cocktail choice at other times too. Mix a shot of vodka with 6 oz tomato juice, a teaspoon lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon celery salt, two to three drops of hot sauce (like Tabasco), two to three drops of Worcester sauce and one dash pepper. It's sure got a kick.
Approximate number of calories: 134, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of vodka
5. Moscow Mule
This drink usually contains a whopping 182 calories, but a few easy swaps - like ditching the regular ginger beer and syrup - can make it a little healthier. Stir together a shot of vodka with ½ ounce lime juice, 3 oz of zero-calorie ginger beer and top with a lime wedge.
Approximate number of calories: 97, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of vodka
6. Tequila sunrise
Perfect for a sunny day thanks to its colorful hue. Once more, a few changes are required to bring this drink down in calorie count. Shake together one shot of tequila, with a third cup of fresh orange juice and 1.5 ounce grenadine syrup - a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry can be used to finish.
Approximate number of calories: 157, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of tequila
A classy low calorie cocktail choice that will cause little confusion at the bar thanks to its limited number of ingredients. It is made from a shot of vodka stirred with ⅓ ounce vermouth - with an olive or two thrown in. Beware flavored martini options which have a much greater sugar content.
Approximate number of calories: 120, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of vodka
How to make low calorie cocktails
You'll probably find yourself predominently ordering your low calorie cocktails at a bar - and the above should provide delicious inspiration for healthier options and requests for your bartender. However, if you want to whip one up at home, it's useful to know which ingredients are best if you're aiming for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Firstly, there's usually the spirit - like low calorie vodka, gin, rum and tequila - to consider. “All of them start with a main raw ingredient, such as grains (for example, barley), fruit (grapes or other fruit) or potatoes before fermentation begins," explains Gomez de Bonilla. "Then the water with the base is heated until it has reached boiling point. Next, the steam is collected, which becomes ethanol or pure alcohol. The grade of alcohol is then reduced, with the percentage of alcohol of each spirit up to the distillery."
It is also important to consider what the spirit is then mixed with. “Cocktails contain additional calories that you may not have counted," warns Gomez de Bonilla. "For example, a piña colada can contain up to 490 calories from the cream and syrup. Most cocktail bases, such as gin, vodka, rum, whisky or tequila, contain not much under a hundred calories per shot, but liqueurs such as Tia Maria or Baileys can have up to 170 calories per shot due to the added sugar and cream."
How to reduce the calories in your cocktail? "In terms of low-sugar mixers, swap tonic water for the diet version, and change regular fizzy pop for a diet version - like original Coke for Coke Zero or Diet Coke," recommends Gomez de Bonilla. "No-added sugar juice and soda water can also keep the numbers down, and if you need to use cream choose the lower fat version." Enlist mint and lime to add flavor and avoid calorie-rich liqueurs as well as sugary syrups and other flavorings. Get a little inspiration with these easy mixers...
- Schweppes Diet Tonic Water - no calories per 12 oz serving
- San Pellegrino Sparkling Water - no calories per 12 oz serving
- Coke Zero / Diet Coke - 1 calorie per 12 oz serving
- Sprite Zero Sugar - no calories per 12 oz serving
- Apple juice (no added sugar) - 120 calories per 12 oz serving
- Orange juice (no added sugar) - 153 calories per 12 oz serving
- Cranberry juice (no added sugar) - 156 calories per 12 oz serving
- Lime juice - seven calories per 1 oz serving
Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to Womanandhome.com she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss.
While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.
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